Hawaiʻi groundwater and geothermal data compiled for first time

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Nicole Lautze, (808) 956-3945
Assistant Researcher, HIGP, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Donald Thomas, (808) 494-0737
Director, Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Posted: Mar 2, 2015

HGGRC logo
HGGRC logo
The Humuulu Groundwater Research Project team gather in front of the drill rig. Credit: Ka`o Sutton.
The Humuulu Groundwater Research Project team gather in front of the drill rig. Credit: Ka`o Sutton.

The Hawai‘i Institute for Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) at UH Mānoa recently launched a website, the Hawaii Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center (HGGRC), and, in doing so, introduced an abundance of new data related to these natural resources.

Two HIGP researchers, Drs. Nicole Lautze and Donald Thomas, led the creation of this resource center to organize and publicly disseminate data on Hawai‘i’s groundwater and geothermal resources from private and public agencies and organizations.

“Our goal is to educate individuals and facilitate responsible management of these resources into the future,” said Lautze, HIGP assistant researcher.

“Creating this open data set is an important first step in revitalizing our understanding of Hawai‘i’s water resources, as new and enhanced geophysical methods today promise to update the foundations of our current knowledge, which has been based upon 80-year-old technology and studies,” added Dr. Rhett Butler, who serves as director of HIGP.

In the past, several disconnected repositories existed for groundwater- or geothermal-relevant documents in Hawai‘i. Lautze and Thomas noticed significant public interest in several projects, and realized the need to centralize these datasets along with historical photographs, slides and newspaper articles.

For example, now available through the HGGRC, the Geothermal Collection contains more than 1,000 geothermal-relevant documents. Hosted by the University of Hawai‘i repositories ScholarSpace and eVols, this collection has had approximately 100,000 document downloads since its creation three years ago.

In addition, daily updates will be available from HGGRC when the Humu'ulu Groundwater Research project commences drilling of a second 2 km deep hole in the saddle region of the island of Hawaiʻi. The second drilling effort will enhance understanding of the groundwater resources available there.

The Hawai‘i State Water Wells database shows data for the water wells in Hawai‘i (e.g. name, location, type, and depth) via an interactive map, with downloadable water well files. Previously, the only way to view this information was through physical files in a Hawai‘i State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) office.  Roy Hardy, Acting Deputy Director of DLNR’s Commission on Water Resource Management, emphasized that they are “thankful that the historical paper copies of data and information have now been digitized.”

As part of the Department of Energy "Play Fairway” project, researchers at the HGGRC continue to compile all data relevant to geothermal across the entire state of Hawai‘i into a probability map, which will indicate the likelihood of encountering a subsurface resource. This will provide the first updated resource assessment since the late 1970s, which found a potential resource on all islands.

While recognizing that discussions about developing groundwater and geothermal resources can be contentious, Lautze emphasized that the goal of HGGRC is information gathering.  “In bringing together this wealth of information, we hope to facilitate innovative research on Hawai‘i’s groundwater and renewable energy resources,” she said. “Ideally, with sound knowledge in hand, scientists, resource managers, potential developers, policymakers, and the public will have the necessary information to protect and optimally utilize Hawai‘i’s natural resources and to plan for a sustainable future.”

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Photos of drill cores available for download: